Monday, September 29, 2014

Sweep the Leg

I’ve always been one hell of a sleeper. My favorite pastime, besides constantly bemoaning the relentlessly sticky South Louisiana humidity, is crawling into bed at night with a bag of veggie booty and passing out face down and drooling into a good book. I am still trying to figure out a way to work an 8 hour day from my bed. I think it’s absolutely possible.

I used to be able to get by with less sleep, though. Now, less than 6 hours and my whole body and soul punish me for it. I get so cranky I actually growl to myself while getting ready in the morning— a feral dog slapping on moisturizer and scratching at mange. At this moment I am so exhausted I actually think I can hear my hair growing. I down two, three cups of shitty work coffee, feeling it souring in my stomach, wishing I could just bypass my mouth entirely and mash the grounds to a nice paste I can inject right into my arm or between my toes or my eyeball or wherever it is people inject things into themselves.

Usually I make more of an effort to get good sleep nowadays because I know what a vile and worthless piece of bitchy excrement I am when I don’t. Being sleep-deprived is what I would envision a bad acid trip to be like, but with more yawning. I speak from the dank bowels of experience in this area because
I spent the first two years of Lily’s life without any real, substantial sleep.

‘Sweep the Leg’ was a game conceived in a state of serious sleep deprivation. I created it when Lily was about 18 months old, an age where she was big enough to kinda grasp bipedalism, but not so sturdy that she could get anywhere fast without falling down a lot. The game quickly became a favorite in our house; we’d come home from the park and instead of laying down to a sweet nap like other toddlers I knew, Lily would demand, ’SWEEP THE LEG, MAMA! SWEEP THE LEG!’ and for the next two hours, I’d lay on my back in the middle of our giant, king-sized bed and pretend to be asleep. Then Lily would jump up and down next to me and shriek like a maniac. Without warning, I’d reach out and literally swipe both her legs, so that they’d fly out from under her and she’d tumble onto the bed in a giggling heap of hysterical glee. I think even then she was an adrenaline junkie; there was this insane thrill she got from never knowing when she was going to be completely wiped out. I loved the game too, because it was the only game I could play with my kid where I got to lay like a corpse. It was a setup that worked well.

That is, until one day I accidentally fell asleep mid-game and swept a little too far. Oh, I will never, ever forget the sound she made hitting the floor. It haunts me still. Nothing in the world stings like hearing your kid in pain. Except when you’re the dumbass who caused it. Then it’s a million times worse.

She ended up being fine. Just a little surprised. And probably her feelings were hurt more than anything, that Mom could actually over-sweep and send her to the floor on her butt.

That day I learned an important lesson, and was never sleep deprived again!

That’s a big, fat lie. But I think that might’ve been the last game of Sweep the Leg we played for quite a while..

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sage Advice for Single Parents

I had a conference with Lily’s 5th grade teacher the other day. The woman locked eyes with me across the table. I became painfully aware of my ass oozing out on either side of my child-sized plastic seat. Uh Oh, I thought. What now?

Then she smiled. A mothering kind of smile. And a warm jelly of relief flooded my whole body.

‘Lily…oh, Lily is a delight. She has such a strong sense of herself and such good self esteem for a girl her age..whatever you’re doing, keep it up. you’re doing it right.’

‘Oh, thank you,’ I said, resisting the urge to reach over the table, cup her face in my hands and plant a hugely inappropriate kiss on her pearly pink lips. She might as well have just handed me a book deal or a winning lottery ticket; her words were a McDonald’s sundae sprinkled with xanax. The relief was so potent, I wanted to just get up and walk out right there, toss a pile of papers in the air on my way to the door, and say, ‘SEE ya Motherfuckers, I WON.”

My life so far has been pretty good, all things considered. I have very little to complain about, but as far as big accomplishments, massive milestones and the like, I haven’t had a real shitload to put on my Life's Resume. I can say with complete honesty that so far, Lily is really my highest accomplishment. My mad Momming Skillz are by far my greatest source of pride. Kind of ironic, since becoming a single parent was definitely the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.

I remember sitting in my therapist’s office many, many moons ago, contemplating the idea of kicking out my then-husband. Her sage advice: ‘No matter what you decide, just remember that being a single parent is the hardest thing in the world.’ I was like, hey, screw you, lady. You don’t live with the guy.

She was right, though. And wrong, too, in some ways.
Here is MY sage advice for anyone considering walking this path:

1. Don’t mourn the loss of your social life too much.
Find a nice teenager on the block who will hang at your house for a few hours after your kid is asleep if you want to go have a cocktail or scream in your car or something. Personally, I’ve never been much of a social butterfly. I have a book club once a month at my house, so I get to see my lady pals and drink and talk about vibrators and periods and afterward I just crawl into bed. It’s kind of awesome.

2. it’s helpful to have a granola bar/cookie/trail mix stash in the console of the car for the times you forget to pack breakfast.
Also, flip-flops or sneakers, for those times you rush out of the house wearing two different shoes. I also keep tweezers in there b/c once in a while I will glance at my face in the rearview at a light and Jesus Christ.

3. Know that people will assume things about you.
People might assume you’re lonely, or that what you really want, more than anything, is another husband. If your married friends tend to be insecure (and we can all be sometimes), they might even worry you’re after THEIR husbands. Or that your disease of divorcedness is a highly contagious swine flu that they might catch if they hang out too much with you.
Your ex’s family will especially have ideas about you. Remember that these are based solely on what your ex is telling them about you, so their opinions are a weeee bit slanted. Also, it doesn’t matter what these people think. Lets just hope that they keep these opinions to themselves around your child, biting their tongues as you have almost bitten yours into Swiss cheese many times.

4. Speaking of tongue-biting…
Yeah. This is the biggest challenge ever. Maybe you and your kid’s father are on great terms, so this one doesn’t apply. I have a friend who traveled to Disney with her ex and their kid, they like each other that much. That’s not my situation. Take it from me, I struggle daily with the urge to blurt out one of the multitudinous depraved things Lily’s dad did during our marriage, especially when she is on a tear about how much better it is at his house than at mine. Not doing it can be cruelly difficult. But doing it will have even more disastrous results.

5. You will feel guilty.
A lot. No, all the time. Like mostly every second. I even have guilty dreams. Last week I dreamt that I went on vacation to Jamaica with my boyfriend and came back to find out that Lily had started smoking crack. I also lay in bed at night NOT sleeping sometimes, running through all of the things I must be doing wrong: Am I loving her enough? Too much? Preparing her for the real world? Teaching her not to loathe her body? Enabling Daddy Issues? It never ends. And you can’t even take an ambient because what if the house catches on fire and you’re too zonked to get your kid out of bed? Then what, huh???

6. You can’t do it all, but you can do SO much more than you ever thought possible.
When I go through my day, I’m amazed that I was able to get as much accomplished as I have. When I was in college, I would sometimes spend entire Saturdays laying on the couch, smoking pot and watching movies. Today, the idea of wasting a day sickens me. Not because I think it’s a bad thing to do, but because THERE IS SO MUCH THAT HAS TO GET DONE. Truthfully, I usually go to bed at night feeling pretty smug that I managed to feed, clothe, support, teach, play with, and listen to a small, ever-developing person, while also keeping our house from disappearing under a pile of laundry and cat litter. Multitasking is no joke. Today I hopped out of the shower to iron a school uniform while dripping wet with soap in my hair. I don’t recommend this, by the way.

7. It can be amazing.
I always think about that old Peace Corps ad from the 80s, where they say it’s the ‘Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love’. It’s true. Any parent will tell you that, but doing it on your own is especially tricky because, duh, you’re doing two people’s jobs by yourself. But here’s the cool part: You are your own sovereign nation. You have nobody to defer to, nobody who needs to be consulted on the big decisions. There’s nobody with whom to share a bathroom. No weird, kinky items show up on credit card statements. Bills get paid because you are the one earning the money to pay them.

8. Remember that this is all so temporary
Some day, sooner than you think, she will be gone. Grown up, set out to live her own life, which is exactly what should happen if you’ve done this whole crazy thing right. You will always be her mom. But some day, you’re going to remember what it was like to be a lot of other things too. You'll have more time than you do now. So don’t worry about the stupid scarf you don’t have time to knit, or the memoir that is sitting in pieces on your computer desk, scratched up to hell with red pen (these are hypothetical). There will be time. It will be worth the wait.